Mompreneur and self-described kitchen chemist Janell Stephens is a force to be reckoned with. Janell is the Founder and CEO of Camille Rose Naturals, a vegan wellness brand founded in 2010. Her products grew out of necessity for her childrens’ skincare. They suffered from bleeding eczema and she struggled to find a cure. Camille Rose Naturals is now carried by major retailers like Target, Whole Foods and Walmart.
Her Agenda spoke with Janell about her motivations, newest products and self-care routine.
Her Agenda: Give us a few words that describe Janell.
Janell Stephens: I am funny (I love to crack jokes), a hard-worker, focused, loyal, ambitious, and driven.
Her Agenda: You named your company in honor of your maternal grandmother, right?
Janell Stephens: Yes, I wanted to tie my grandmother into my brand. I grew up in Louisiana. My grandmother helped raise me and she lived until she was 99 years old. She never went to the doctor (well maybe one time), her skin was so beautiful and physically she looked great. I was raised to be holistic, following the idea of letting food be your medicine.
My grandmother had a front yard full of roses. I can remember being outside of my grandmother’s house after she died, it was winter. My family and I were waiting for the limo to pick her up [for the funeral service]. My aunt looked over and pointed at one red rose in full bloom, the rest of the bush was dead. That’s where the name Rose came from. The other part of the brand, Camille, to me describes a modern sophisticated woman.
I was raised to be holistic, following the idea of letting food be your medicine.
Her Agenda: Who or what else do you draw inspiration from?
Janell Stephens: I can be traveling or trying new food and I just go from there. Or even [I can draw inspiration from] physical containers. The design for my newest leave-in collection was inspired by a vegan mayo bottle that I saw in Kroger! My brand is gourmet foodie. My new leave-in collection uses honey, latte and herbal tea.
Her Agenda: Wow! You are a true creative who gets visually inspired by what’s around you.
Janell Stephens: Yes, I am inspired by my everyday life!
Her Agenda: That’s so interesting and it adds to what makes your brand unique. Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
Janell Stephens: I have a Master’s Degree in Science and I am a therapist by training. Many people don’t know that Camille Rose is my 2nd business. I managed a home health agency in Lafayette, Louisiana. I started it my 2nd year out of grad school and eventually expanded to Atlanta, Georgia. Both companies were sold and my husband began his medical fellowship so I prayed about what to do next.
Her Agenda: It seems like your background in science, entrepreneurship and even veganism prepared you for this role. Would you say that’s true?
Janell Stephens: Looking back, yes. I didn’t realize it then. God had me on this path for a reason. Reflecting on the stress of graduate school, it helped me build the endurance to meet deadlines, not be a procrastinator, and get things done. Also because of the issues that my babies had with their skin, I was determined to find something to help them.
God had me on this path for a reason. Reflecting on the stress of graduate school, it helped me build the endurance to meet deadlines, not be a procrastinator, and get things done.
Her Agenda: What is the biggest lesson in business that you’ve learned thus far?
Janell Stephens: I had to learn to come from a place of “yes” and trust myself. When a retailer initially approached me and I joined my first meeting, it was with people who did not look like me. I was coming from making products in my kitchen and that initial meeting was intimidating. So I had to learn to listen to my voice. Sometimes you listen to what others tell you [about] what to do instead of what you know is best. I had to learn that it’s okay to grow at your own pace, not how others want you to. Because if that doesn’t work, you are left holding the financial bag. It is okay to say “no not right now, it’s not good for the brand.” They will come back and be receptive when you say yes, let’s move forward.
Her Agenda: Your products are vegan and can be used for various hair types. What else helped you cut through the noise and reach the beauty market?
Janell Stephens: I remained true to myself, my brand and my formulas. I didn’t set out to be in the beauty industry, I was trying to make safe products for my family. People recognize that and are receptive to that honesty.
Her Agenda: Who do you lean on for support in your day to day business?
Janell Stephens: You can’t be successful at this level by yourself. My people are not just employees, they are like family. I used to hire just based on credentials and that did not work. Now I hire based on attitude, personality, and drive as well credentials. Chemistry is important, too. People can be self-taught, I was self-taught. When you find people who have the same drive, are ambitious, and want to win — you’ve got something good. It took years for me to find the group that I have now.
Her Agenda: Many naturalistas and women with coily textured hair love your products, often sharing their opinions online. Do you find that most of your success has come from word of mouth?
Janell Stephens: Camille Rose was built from social media. Most recently we’ve been working with celebrity influencers and different kinds of consumers. My products are not just for certain hair types or styles. Girls with perms, or who wear wigs and yes, natural girls can use my products. Everybody wants to use a product with good ingredients.
Her Agenda: Most of us are spending much more time at home due to COVID-19, what is your go-to protective hairstyle?
Janell Stephens: Right now my hair is in faux locs and of course with social distancing, I can’t get my hair done. So this is my protective style! I am tired of them, but I am maintaining my hair and keeping my new growth moisturized with the Camille Rose Grow Back Serum and the Curl Love Moisture Milk.
Her Agenda: Do you have a self-care routine?
Janell Stephens: Everyday I try to do something for myself, I workout every day after I drop off my kids. For women and mompreneurs, I would say “do for self.” If it’s 30 mins or an hour, take that time. Do something that makes you happy. Let go of the guilt, it’s important. You need to look at yourself and feel good.
In terms of Camille Rose products to help with self-care, we have bath and body, a garden-inspired skincare line and several hair care products.
[Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]